Beautiful wastelands: tales from the bog: the ‘ordinary schools’ of greater Sydney, Australia

Kelly Cheung*, Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) there are different systems for secondary schooling for young people and this paper focuses on public comprehensive secondary schools. These are frequently characterised as the “schools of last resort” by parents with the ability to make a choice about which school sector their children will attend. This paper uses spatial metaphors to situate readers into a constituted identity of the local comprehensive public school as “bog standard” while using narrative limnings to illuminate the professional complexities of English teachers’ work in these kinds of schools. It reports on the particular narratives of four English teachers working in four different “bog standard” public comprehensive secondary schools located across Greater Sydney. It is hoped that the narratives of this paper dispel some of the affective concerns that contribute so strongly to the imaginary of the threatening comprehensive public school while revealing some complexities for teachers of English navigating schooling inequalities in Greater Sydney, Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-186
Number of pages17
JournalEnglish in Education
Issue number3
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • subject English
  • narrative inquiry
  • text choices
  • metaphor
  • schools
  • austerity


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